Nine months after the Russian occupation, Ukrainians celebrate the recapture of Cherson. The national anthem is sung at the Kyiv Victory Column.
Flowers for the soldiers at the site and champagne in Kiev – the whole of Ukraine celebrates the liberation of Cherson. “My city, where I was born and lived my whole life, is finally free,” 17-year-old Nastia Stepanska said tearfully in Kyiv. “It is possible and safe” as soon as he returns to his home region.
For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Friday evening that Kherson once again belongs to “our people.” Russia earlier announced a complete withdrawal of troops from the capital of the region of the same name in southern Ukraine. This ended nearly nine months of Russian occupation.
“We’ve waited nine months for this.”
News that Ukrainian troops had arrived in the city of Kherson sparked a rare outburst of jubilation in Kiev, with singing and honking in the streets. Wrapped in Ukrainian flags, hugging each other and popping champagne corks, the march towards the Maidanplatz is celebrated on Friday evening.
“This is the best surprise ever,” said Artem Lukyu. The 41-year-old is also from Kherson and admits he did not expect his city to be liberated so quickly. “We’ve been waiting for this for nine months,” he says. “We’re really happy.”
At Kherson the soldiers were greeted with flowers
The situation is the same in free areas. “We see happy, smiling faces,” reported Andriy Skolb, commander of a medical unit about 50 kilometers from Kherson. “We get flowers, embroidered cloths that we put on our vehicles,” he told news agency AFP by phone. “We see children running towards us to greet us.”
Skolob acknowledged that there are certainly people in Ukraine’s southern regions who regret the Russian withdrawal. The trained orthopedist from Lviv says, fortunately, he has yet to meet any of them.
Another Ukrainian soldier who had just arrived with his comrades in the city of Kherson shared video of his arrival with AFP. One shot shows a young woman shouting “Glory to Ukraine” and kissing soldiers.
Authorities warn of booby traps in Cherson
Another video shows dozens of people standing outside a bus stop decked out in national colors, greeting soldiers with applause and flowers and shouting “our saviors”. It’s like that everywhere, says the soldier. On the way to Cherson, they saw burnt Russian equipment, “a lot of destroyed agricultural equipment” and destroyed houses. In addition, Ukrainian authorities have warned that the Russian military may have set a Bubi trap.
In Kiev, however, such caution is irrelevant. Ukrainians fleeing Cherson from Russian occupiers also celebrate in front of the Victory Column, which commemorates independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. They sing the Ukrainian national anthem together and wipe away tears of joy. And people continued to call out the numbers of the brigades of the Ukrainian army, which conquered Cherson nine months after the Russian occupation.